Mobile SEO: The Definitive Guide (2018)

Mobile technology is changing with time and so is people’s browsing habits. People these days prefer searching more on their mobile phones rather than on the desktops or laptops because of mobility and connectivity.According to a report from Business Insider, it is estimated that there will be 3.5 billion smartphones shipped worldwide. With that availability of phones and internet, it is a great opportunity for the businesses to target mobile SEO and reach majority of the people.

Make your website mobile-user friendly

Making sure that your website is mobile friendly is the first step as it directly affects the page rankings according to the new updates of search engines like Google and Bing.

The three main approaches that you can use for making your site mobile friendly are:

1. RESPONSIVE DESIGN this means that your website can rearrange its layout (screen size) depending on the mobile device it is being processed on.Everything else on the page like URL, images, text, videos, etc.remains the same.

2. RESS/Adaptive/Dynamic Serving in this, server sends a different version of the page, depending upon the type of device that is requesting the page.

3. 
Separate Mobile Site as the name suggests, you create an entirely different site for the
mobile devices on a subdomain (e.g. m.domain.com) or on  a subfolder (e.g. www.domain.com/mobile). It is advised to keep all the same pages and content in the same order.

SEO for Mobile Search

The main thing here is to make sure that your mobile site is responsive and you have performed an audit by crawling. This helps you find out and fix issues faced by crawlers that only occurs on mobile. A ‘Crawler’ is a program commonly known as a ‘bot’ that visit your site to read its content and information in order to create entries for search engine index.
Next thing to keep in mind is to check the performance and responsiveness of the site. It’s always a good idea to check the speed and loading time.If you have a dynamically served site or a separate mobile site, you’ll have to add some things to your pages to make sure that Google understand that the two versions are connected.

Optimizing an Adaptive Website for Mobile Search

An adaptive (or dynamically served) site uses a single URL, but serves a different version of the page depending on the type of device requesting the page. The basic SEO principles are same as for a responsive site. You need to make sure to avoid the appearance of cloaking. Cloaking means when you show different thing to search engine and human user. This is highly discouraged. (Collapsing menus are acceptable as long as they are accessible by Human user and Search Engine both equally.)
In the case of a dynamically served site, you need to signal to Google that you are not tricking Google bot but are showing different versions of the page based on request by user agent. To make it clear that this is what you’re doing, you should use the Vary-HTTP Header.

Using this header has two additional benefits:

  • It will encourage the mobile crawler to crawl the site by letting it know that there is separate mobile content on mobile URL.
  • It will signal to caching servers that they should consider the user agent when deciding whether to serve a page from the cache.

Optimizing a Separate Mobile Website for Mobile Search
A mobile site is an entirely separate URL from the desktop so you’ll need to optimize these pages too along with the desktop version. Apart from usual SEO basics, extra guidelines that will come in handy:

Create a parallel URL structure

Your URL of mobile site must show the same content in exact same order as on desktop unless it has different content designed especially for mobile.

Add mobile switchboard tags

You need to add mobile switchboard tags in order to avoid the suspicion of duplicate content by search engines. This suspicion is triggered because of the same content on desktop and mobile versions. Adding this tag will indicate that this is the alternate version for mobile searches.

Consider user-agent redirects
This is used to redirect the visitors from wrong version of your site to the right one.

Additional guidance for handling redirects to a mobile site:

  1. Instead of redirecting all desktop pages to the mobile homepage instead, point them to a mobile page relevant to the original.
  2. Include a link to ‘view desktop version’ on your mobile site (and vice versa).
  3. Redirect tablet users to the desktop site, instead of the mobile site as tablet browsing patterns are similar to that of desktop.
    Make sure you’re not blocking the Googlebot smartphone user-agent from your desktop version or regular Googlebot from the mobile version.

Schema.org, Rich Snippets, and Rich Cards

As Google is shifting more towards card-based format in the SERPs  especially on mobile devices where the screen height means limited screen real estate, taking steps like rich snippets and rich cards gained through structured data markup becomes valuable.

Apart from mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, Google has been working on few other key trendsdirectly related to mobile technology and user behaviour:

  • Using ‘The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project’to improve site speed and page load time for mobile content. This content can be cached and served directly within a SERP.
  • Removing sidebar ads from the desktop SERP layout for “mobile” look
  • Integrating app content with web search through support for app indexation and app streaming

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